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PROOF: Issue 1 (pp. 50-51)

PROOF: Issue 1 (p. 52)

Broadway
Mad about Math

David Auburn’s Proof doesn’t challenge math-phobic audiences —only the tyrannical authority the sciences hold over modern life.

Review by Mary Poovey


Excerpt: New York’s last theater season extended the winning streak of plays about science, a trend that became certified in 2000 when Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen won the Tony Award for best dramatic production. In the past two seasons theatrical companies both on and off Broadway have staged at least nine new plays about physics, mathematics and the men (and women) who make science. A year ago a drama revolving around a fictional mathematics professor and his daughters, written by a previously unknown playwright named David Auburn, opened on Broadway to enthusiastic reviews and proceeded to earn back its producers’ $1.1 million startup costs in less than three months; by summer it had won a Pulitzer Prize, several critic’s awards and last year’s top-drama Tony as well.
   One reason that Auburn’s play, entitled Proof, makes for a satisfying evening of theater: It’s not really about mathematics. . . . .


About the writer: Mary Poovey is the author of A History of the Modern Fact (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1998), which places double-entry bookkeeping, government statistics-keeping and other developments in an epistemological context. She is a professor of English and director of the Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge at New York University.


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